Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Scandi-Brits in Iceland

Scandi-Brits is a term (I believe) coined by Scandi expert Barry Forshaw to cover those from Britain writing about Scandinavia/Nordic countries in English. I'm going to loosen it slightly for this post so I can include a few non-Brits. I'm starting with Iceland and please let me know any titles I've missed.

For Icelandic authors please see my list on the Euro Crime website.

My own interest in Iceland was piqued by the TV series Running Blind based on Desmond Bagley's 1970 novel which was shown in 1979. Never released for home viewing, you can now watch it on YouTube.

The assignment begins with a simple errand – a parcel to deliver. But to Alan Stewart, standing on a deserted road in Iceland with a murdered man at his feet, it looks anything but simple. The desolate terrain is obstacle enough. But when Stewart realises he has been double-crossed and that the opposition is gaining ground, his simple mission seems impossible…

More recently we have had Quentin Bates and Michael Ridpath setting series there:

Frozen Out (2011) by Quentin Bates is the first book in the Sergeant Gunnhildur series. Currently there are 7 novels and two novellas.

Where the Shadows Lie (2010) by Michael Ridpath is the first of  five novels and a couple of short stories featuring Magnus Jonson, an American-Icelandic detective.

In 2016, Adam Lebor's The Reykjavik Assignment was published. This is the third in a globe-trotting series featuring UN negotiator Yael Azoulay.

UN covert negotiator, Yael Azoulay, has been sent to Reykjavik to broker a secret meeting between US President Freshwater and the Iranian president. Both parties want the violence to stop, but Yael soon realises that powerful enemies are pulling the strings. Enemies for whom peace means an end to their lucrative profit streams. 

Australian author, Hannah Kent's Burial Rites came out in 2013.

Northern Iceland, 1829.

A woman condemned to death for murdering her lover.

A family forced to take her in.

A priest tasked with absolving her.

But all is not as it seems, and time is running out:

winter is coming, and with it the execution date.

Only she can know the truth. This is Agnes's story.

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea was published in 2019.

When Rósa is betrothed to Jón Eiríksson, she is sent to a remote village.

There she finds a man who refuses to speak of his recently deceased first wife, and villagers who view her with suspicion.

Isolated and disturbed by her husband's strange behaviour, her fears deepen.

What is making the strange sounds in the attic?

Who does the mysterious glass figure she is given represent?

And why do the villagers talk of the coming winter darkness in hushed tones?

New Zealand author Grant Nicol has written a five book series: The Grimur Karlsson Mysteries, which begins with 2016's On a Small Island.

In the space of a few days, Ylfa Einarsdóttir sees her peaceful existence in downtown Reykjavík turned on its head. Some unexpected news from one of her sisters and a brutal murder that’s far too close to home for comfort leave her wondering why life has turned on her so suddenly.

When the police fail to take her seriously, her hands-on approach to the investigation soon lands her in hot water.

Following a string of biblical messages left behind by a mysterious nemesis she stumbles upon a dark secret that has finally come home to roost.

As she is about to find out, on a small island, what goes around, comes around.

Northern Light (2018) by Danish author (writing in English) Christoffer Petersen is the first in the PolarPol series and is set in Iceland.

The Icelandic interior, uninhabited, glacial, volcanic, and accessible only in summer, is the last place to be in winter. But during an assassination attempt on the world’s leading cybercrime specialist at a conference in Reykjavík, it's the only place left to hide.

When the Icelandic State Police run out of resources, responsibility for hunting the assassins is given to the Polar Task Force, and it is native Icelander Hákon Sigurdsson’s job to lead a team into the interior.

Plagued by political agendas of sovereignty and power, the Polar Task Force, including members chosen from each of the countries located in the Arctic, needs a win to ensure the survival of the unit. The pressure is on, and it is up to Hákon to choose his team, complete the mission, and bring them back alive.

For any other task force, a winter pursuit of well-armed assassins into Iceland’s interior is nothing short of madness.

American author Betty Webb's The Puffin of Death (2015), the fourth in her Gunn Zoo series, visits Iceland in this outing.

California zookeeper Theodora Bentley travels to Iceland to pick up an orphaned polar bear cub destined for the Gunn Zoo's newly installed Northern Climes exhibit. The trip is intended to be a combination of work and play.

But on day two, while horseback riding near a picturesque seaside village, Teddy discovers a man lying atop a puffin burrow, shot through the head. The victim is identified as American birdwatcher Simon Parr, winner of the largest Powerball payout in history. Is Teddy a witness - or a suspect? Others include not only Parr's wife, a famed suspense novelist, but fellow members of the birding club Parr had generously treated to their lavish Icelandic expedition. Hardly your average birders, several of them have had serious brushes with the law back in the States.

Guessing that an American would best understand other Americans, police detective Thorvaald Haraldsson grudgingly concedes her innocence and allows Teddy to tag along with the group to volcanoes, glaciers, and deep continental rifts in quest of rare bird species. But once another member of the club is murdered and a rockfall barely misses Teddy's head, Haraldsson forbids her to continue. She ignores him and, in a stunning, solitary face-off with the killer in Iceland's wild interior, concludes an investigation at once exotic, thrilling, and rich in animal lore.

And finally, French author Fred Vargas's A Climate of Fear (2016) translated by Sian Reynolds,  has a large portion set in Iceland.

A woman is found dead in her bath. The murder has been disguised as a suicide and a strange symbol is discovered at the scene. Then the symbol is observed near a second victim, who ten years earlier had also taken part in a doomed expedition to Iceland. How are these deaths, and rumours of an Icelandic demon, linked to a secretive local society? And what does the mysterious sign mean? Commissaire Adamsberg is about to find out.

Update 10/2/21

Margot Livesey's The Flight of Gemma Hardy (2012), a Jane Eyre re-telling,  has an Icelandic connection.

Taken from her native Iceland to Scotland in the early 1950s when her widower father drowns at sea, young Gemma Hardy comes to live with her kindly uncle and his family. But his death leaves Gemma under the care of her resentful aunt, and she suddenly finds herself an unwelcome guest. Surviving oppressive years at a strict private school, Gemma ultimately finds a job as an au pair to the eight-year-old niece of Mr. Sinclair on the Orkney Islands—and here, at the mysterious and remote Blackbird Hall, Gemma's greatest trial begins.

Update 13/2/21

A R Kennedy's second book in the 'Traveler Cozy Mystery' series, RIP in Reykjavik goes to Iceland.

Traveling with your family can be murder.
One wedding party + one estranged mother = another vacation that goes array for Naomi.

Naomi is off on another international vacation. She thinks traveling with her mother will be the most difficult part of her trip until she meets the rest of the tour group—a wedding party. It only gets worse when she finds the groom dead. Everyone’s a suspect on her Icelandic tour of this stunning country.

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